Maybe collards can’t deliver the same pizzazz as those beautiful kales, but they are by no means a homely or undeserving plant. They also deserve more respect in the garden just because they are so nutritious and healthful. Collards are considered to be nutrient dense, which means that you’ll be rewarded with a big nutritional bang when consuming this tasty vegetable.
A Peek at Collard’s Out-Growing Personality
Collards are not only big in their nutritional profiles; they also provide a powerful presence out in the vegetable garden. Collards are like an extroverted form of cabbage that grows outward instead of holding itself in. Unlike its more reserved relative, collards won’t hesitate to open up and put on a proud display in the garden.
In my eyes the kales still have them beat for beauty, but collard greens are striking and attractive in their own right. It’s a combination of the color, leaf form, and texture that can make you stop and take note of this otherwise rather ordinary and common leafy green vegetable.
Flexing Some Green Muscle in the Garden
Before I cause offense by calling them ordinary, let me point out the spectacular sizes that collard plants can attain. If ever there was a leafy green vegetable accused of using steroids this would be the one. A single plant can grow over four feet in height and spread five feet in width all without the use of stakes or additional support to prop them up.
An individual collard leaf can easily grow to occupy over a square foot in area. But one secret for the backyard gardener is that you might be better off to not let them grow that large before harvesting for kitchen use. The smaller sized leaves are tenderer, just as tasty, and will cook up in a few brief minutes, or can even be enjoyed raw in salads.
Natural Seasoning for Tasty Leafy Greens
Another tip for the home gardener growing collards is take advantage of the flavor enhancement provided by cold weather. The quality and flavor of collard greens will be improved and sweetened as the plants are exposed to a few touches of fall frost.
To harvest collard plants I usually pick a few of the outer leaves from each plant and allow the center to continue growing and producing leaves for future harvesting. Like kale, collards easily survive the cold winters here in Pennsylvania and will rebound to yield additional leaves and edible seed stalks the following spring.
Collard Green Variety and Diversity
Popular collard varieties include Vates, Georgia, Champion, and Morris Heading. I haven’t noticed much difference in any of these varieties and each will provide you with a similar crop.
If you’re interested in a different or more ornamental strain of collards try to locate seed of either the Variegated or Green Glaze collard varieties. The Variegated collards produce unique leaves that take on a cream, white, pink, or tinge of red variegation as the temperatures become cooler. Green Glaze collards produce smooth, glossy leaves that are shiny and noticeably different from the other collard varieties.
Collards are very easy to grow and can be set out as transplants in the spring or direct seeded into the garden during the summer months. They are sometimes targeted by the cabbage moths and worms but seem to be more resistant to these pests than cabbage and kale.
So if you’ve been snoozing on this nutrient-rich leafy green vegetable; it’s time to consider planting some collards in your next garden!
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